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Message from the Superintendent

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Many of you are aware of a national conversation about providing a balanced environment for our children. If you’ve been to one of my 36 parent coffee talks at each of our schools, or follow me on Twitter, you know that both as a superintendent and as a dad, I strongly believe we need to nurture and support our children.  At the same time, raise them to be independent and to understand that mistakes and soft failures are learning experiences that provide the foundation for adulthood.


As parents, we want so much for our children. We want to do everything in our power to position them to be successful and happy adults. I personally had to learn to balance my parenting with the reality that a young person’s dreams for fulfillment belong to them, not us. Sometimes, we need to pause and remember that we really want our children to be healthy, well-adjusted and well-rounded youngsters. That may include giving them time and space to relax, sleep and play, and not over-schedule them with adult-driven activities.


Research and  numerous publications support the idea that we are over-scheduling, over-nurturing and over-parenting our children. A recent study of 11- to 16-year-olds highlighted the negative impact of parents’ unrealistic expectations on children’s academic and emotional lives. This study found that the children of parents with higher academic hopes do better than those whose parents aspire less. However, the children of parents who aim too high, exceeding realistic expectations, end up with negative academic results. Children need to be valued for who they are and not what they achieve. From that foundation, success and happiness usually follow.


Advice on the best pathway to support your children in their personal and academic growth through balanced parenting and teaching can be found in best-selling books and news articles. This includes a recent New York Times story, “It Takes a Suburb: A Town Struggles to Ease Student Stress,” that mentions San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s efforts to ease student stress. A couple of best-selling books that I recommend include:

  • “How to Raise an Adult,” by Julie Lythcott-Haims.

  • “The Gift of Failure,” by Jessica Lahey.


In her book, Lahey points out three things a parent can stop doing for an immediate and positive impact:


  1. Stop saying “we” when you mean your kid . Don’t say, “We are applying to Stanford,” when it’s the young person who is applying.  

  2. Stop arguing with all the adults in your kid’s life. Instead, coach your kids on how to talk to adults and help provide them with the gift of self-advocacy.

  3. Stop doing their homework. It’s great to help guide your children, but let them do the work.


Parents often equate success with involvement and achievement in numerous activities. We pack their schedules with after-school programs, music lessons, sports -- all great activities that help young people learn to juggle multiple tasks but may not give them time to rest and play. The two greatest barriers to student success are lack of sleep and over-scheduling.


Give them time to breathe. Let them be kids. We can do so much for our children by simply checking our expectations and working to create a culture of independence at home. Remember, coddling is not love. Soft failures and mini-mistakes are learning opportunities. One of the most amazing traits about kids is their resilience when they are free and safe to learn from their mistakes. They have an incredible ability to be nimble and learn from trial and error.  


This spring, as you think about your plans for the summer break, consider offering your children some healthy free time, maybe even time to become bored! Don’t feel guilty if you hear your children say they are bored. Boredom can be constructive as youngsters do quite a bit of imagining while “bored.”


If you are interested in speaking with me more on the topic of balanced parenting, I encourage you to come to one of my upcoming parent forums this spring on April 27 and May 9.  I also regularly post stories about balanced-parenting and student stress on Twitter where you can find me @SRVUSD_Supt.


There’s no doubt about it: parenting is a difficult job. It requires skills that we spend a lifetime trying to master -- patience, understanding, wisdom, forgiveness and love. It’s probably the hardest thing we ever do. Thank you for being active, involved, dedicated and informed parents.


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